Applecart is an anthology film, featuring four stories that differ wildly from one another while maintaining a unique concept that is coherent throughout the entire movie. The tagline for the film is “We all wear masks”, which is not only a metaphor, but every character literally wears an actual mask. Some of the masks are completely blank and others have small features and defining marks that show off a tiny bit of the character's personalities.
The movie opens with a nervous woman removing her clothes and masturbating. It's worth noting that this is unsimulated, yet not gratuitous at all. In fact, it's more disturbing than erotic. The music and the eerie shots of the woman's masked face is more likely to unease than anything else. After this short clip, the first of the four stories begins.
The first story opens with a father secretly watching his daughter shower, as his wife discovers him, a laughing track plays and she wags her finger at him as he gives off a goofy “lolwoops” gesture. This sets the scene perfectly for what to expect from this movie. The visuals are all reminiscent of silent films from a long time ago, and the actors do amazing things despite having not only no talking parts, but masks covering their faces the entire time. Alilson Egan especially owns her part as a jealous and insecure housewife, plus this is the second Dustin Mill's film I've seen her in with no talking parts and a mask that she wears throughout the entire film, while still giving an outstanding performance. Bow down to the crumpleshack queen!
“The Sleepover” is probably the simplest story of the four, but in my opinion it is also the most effective. Full frontal nudity, unsimulated sexual activity and burning jealousy alongside a genuinely upsetting and disturbing tale of lust and envy that never feels exploitative or cheesy, despite the concept. The use of sound, particularly static, is used remarkably well throughout the entire film, and in some cases the sounds alone make up for what is not shown on screen, similar to the infamous “Psycho” shower scene.
The mother in this segment tries desperately to win the attention of her husband, who is clearly more interested in his daughter and her friend. As the mother is rejected by her spouse, laughing tracks play, stirring up strange emotions in the viewer. The attention to detail is worth noting as well, small things that add up, like the father's shirt being dirty and the mother's 1950 style dresses.
The second segment, “Caretaker” is probably my least favorite. It feels a lot more light-hearted and jokey in comparison to the other three segments. Haley-Jay Madison plays the caretaker, who is taunting and humiliating the crippled man she has been hired to look after. It's hard to feel like this is anything more than an unrealized, shorter version of the idea for Dustin's newest film, “Invalid”.
Following this is the third segment, “Dad”, which centers around a bible-belting father discovering that his daughter is not only sexually active, but pregnant. The pacing in this segment suffers quite a bit, mostly due to the lack of sound that the other segments feature, but by the time the climax hits, it feels like it was mostly worth it.
The fourth and final chapter, “Let me show you something” is my second favorite, and tells the story of a man who loves a woman he works with, who mysteriously goes missing. This one probably has the most to say and is the darkest of all the segments. This and “The Sleepover” both tell a dark story with lots of graphic imagery, while keeping to it's theme and keeping the contrast between the silent film-era and the contemporary underground drama/horror scene clear.
Applecart is definitely not for everyone, it's immensely art-house and experimental. For the most part, the movie is all hit, the middle two stories have some misses, but as a whole, Applecart is one of the most mysterious, dark and disturbing films of the last five years and is definitely worth seeing at least once.